So we were sitting around thinking about the last great stealth game we played and we were surprised to find that after some discussion most of us agreed it has not been on this generation of consoles. The stealth title has been around for a long time and although there have been many challengers very few have really captured what we think a great stealth title needs to have. The most common mistake with stealth titles is that they either make them too stealthy or not stealthy enough. Either you have to creep around at such a slow pace that it gets annoying or the game is really an action game with a stealth “elements”. A good stealth title should allow you to execute your objectives as quickly as you like if you have the precision to do so instead of forcing you to adopt a predetermined gameplay style. Merriam Webster defines stealth as “intended not to attract attention”, not “intended to not attract attention by having to move really really slow”. Taking all that into account, we all agreed that the title that captures the stealth genre the most is none other than the Hitman franchise.
It might not seem like it, but it has in fact been almost three years since we have seen a Hitman title and we think that is much too long. The last title in the franchise was Hitman: Blood Money back in 2006 and that was the last generation consoles. Now we did get to see our favorite silent assassin on the big screen in the Hitman movie back in 2007 but since then we haven’t heard from him.
Where has Agent 47 gone?
The Hitman franchise is one of the most compelling franchises there is, an assassin who started off quite simply as a cold and ruthless killer but as the franchise has progressed has become a much more complex character no longer completely accepting the rhetoric and positions of “The Agency”. The Hitman franchise represents to us the best in what a stealth game should be, maintaining the delicate gameplay balance that allows it to move along at a steady pace, but the player never feels rushed. We will go one step farther and say that the Hitman games are the best stealth games that we have ever played. Now some folks won’t agree, but let us tell you why.
So the most recent example that one could think of is Assassin’s Creed. AC was many things and was marketed as a stealth title but the truth is that there was hardly ever any real stealth in AC. Altair was agile, graceful, and devastatingly deadly but stealthy he was not. For anyone who played AC, they know that besides the somewhat repetitive mission structure when it came time to eliminate your target it was almost a letdown. Let us clarify, in the sense that the way just about every mission played out you would gather intel that would let you know where your target was and then you would go there an eliminate him.
Though they tried to make you think otherwise there were pretty much predetermined assassination strategies meaning there were not really that many ways to take out your target and sometimes there was only one. So then after spending all that time collecting intel, tracking down your target, you end up having to basically kill him in a predetermined way (albeit an awesome predetermined way) and to us that was kind of disappointing. Then you would set off every alert in the freaking town and have to run like a bat out of you know where to escape. In a true stealth title, this would not be the case. There would be ways of eliminating your target that would let the player choose what they felt was the best elimination method, plan a strategy, and then provide them the opportunity to execute it with the possibility of getting out without anyone even noticing. Again, we want to be clear here that we love AC and can’t wait for Assassin’s Creed 2, but the original can not be considered a stealth title.
There are rumors that they are working on a new Syphon Filter.
So now someone is going to say Splinter Cell. We aren’t going to argue that Splinter Cell isn’t a true stealth title because it is, but at times it has been too stealth. For most of the series, gamers have been forced to have Sam Fisher sneak around at what some would call slower than a snail’s pace. For the majority of the franchise Splinter Cell has been an uber stealth title where the littlest thing could cause Sam’s mission to be compromised. All the Splinter Cell games have been very good, but Splinter Cell forced gamers to play at such a slow speed that it was hard for gamers to really become engulfed in the narrative as the main focus was to avoid detection at all cost, even if it meant taking 45 minutes to get down one hallway and that to to us doesn’t represent the beast that a stealth title could be. So for the record, we definitely agree that Splinter Cell is a stealth title just not the best one we have ever seen.
Check out another one of our articles and give us your thoughts on “Why Do We Hate For Our Favorite Game Characters To Change?”
There are also titles that started off stealthy but as time has progressed have gotten less and less so to include Syphon Filter and Tenchu, both game franchises we love a lot none the less. And we would be remiss to forget the one that most folks believe started it all which was Castle Wolfenstein way back in 1981. There is of course the Metal Gear Solid series that has stretched over 22 years and counting and was absolutely the first stealth game on a console. But you can’t even call MGS4 a stealth game anymore because it isn’t it just has “stealthy” elements. And that is an important distinction to make between a stealth game and a game that has stealth elements.
Hitman is the best true stealth title we have ever played.
That brings us to the Hitman games and they absolutely achieve the balance that we think is imperative to a good stealth title. The game allows you to receive an objective and then come up with any number of ways to achieve that objective. It allows players to be creative, to take in their surroundings and determine the best attack strategy. The thing that separates the Hitman games from most of the rest is that if you talk to 20 different people they will probably all tell you that they came at the same objective differently. In Hitman, the ways of completing a mission are only really constrained by your imagination. You choose the entry point, there may be several. You get to decide if you attempt to take on a disguise to get to your target or go in guns blazing. Will you slip silently into their room as they sleep and deliver a bullet to their brain with your handy Silver Ballers (silenced of course) or will you poison their dinner in the kitchen and then let their trusty servant deliver the fatal blow unbeknownst to them. That is what makes the Hitman games so fun, its like its you versus the game to see if your creative assassination attempts can be thwarted by the enemies AI.
If you have never had the pleasure of playing one of the Hitman titles I suggest you do as they are a real joy to play and are unlike anything else you have ever played. While the game was not without its flaws, a lot of which were due to the technical restraints of the technology, it is still the best stealth game around. There are rumors that Eidos is working on Hitman 5, for the next gen consoles but besides that nothing really solid, we just hope it gets here already.